Posts Tagged ‘community supported agriculture’

25
Jun

A Manifesto on the CSA

Written by Sarah. Posted in CSA, food, summer

It’s summer so it’s more than officially CSA season, guys! I’m obsessed with my CSA and I love hearing about new people joining up with ones in their neighborhoods so I just want to preach about it today. I like to relate everything back to knitting but I think that people who make things care about where things come from and in this case, we’re talking about food. Everybody cares about where food comes from. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a Food Network.

CSA means community supported agriculture. It’s a form of a food co-op (that’s how I present it to people without getting into the long explanation) but it’s not like a grocery store. Members of the CSA buy a share in a local farm before the season, an investment that allows the farmer to have some capital before there is produce to sell. Once the food is harvested it’s divided amongst the members evenly (or however the division is agreed upon) and you get a great return on your investment. There are CSAs for everything you might want to eat: vegetables, fruits, meat, milk, eggs, yogurt, maple syrup, honey. (There’s even a yarn CSA!)

csa strawberries

Long story short, it’s a great and impressively cheap way to get huge amounts local, fresh, organic produce to your home. I’ll be completely transparent: Jon and I pay about $40/week from May to Thanksgiving for pick ups every two weeks of veggies, fruit, and a whole chicken. And it’s a LOT of food. (Imagine spending $40/week in a New York City Whole Foods. You’d starve.)

I’m always bragging about my membership to anyone that will listen. Eating local and organic are trendy and I think a lot of people think I’m snobby or elitist or whatever (I live in Brooklyn so, surprise! those stereotypes are true and I’m ok with it) because I want to put things into my body that aren’t poison. I hate thinking of it in terms of what’s en vogue and what’s not. We should all want those things and we should all want them for as little money as possible. Foodies come in all shapes and sizes, you’d be surprised!

It’s important to me that I’m doing something good for my body and the environment and my community (my required volunteer work is baking a dessert from leftover fruits for a soup kitchen). I love the trust that I have in a farmer that is willing to put food directly into my hands instead of putting a big corporate label on it. I love that I can have fresh produce although I live in a huge city. I also love that I don’t have to make trips to the farmers’ market (we pick up all of the goods at a bar two blocks from our apartment) and that I am saving money because there is no middle man. Why should I not want to brag about that? And how could I stop myself from recruiting friends?

While I happen to think that it’s all too good to be true, lots of people I talk to have hang ups about joining CSAs. (Being honest again: I took a year off after the first season I did. My lifestyle wasn’t ready yet. I had roommates and a kitchen I didn’t like spending time in.) You get a lot of food so you either have to do a lot of cooking and canning or split your share with someone (this year we’re doing a half share, hence our every-other-week pick ups and it’s taken a lot of the burden off). It’s intimidating, yes. The first CSA we participated in left us drowning in plums and kale. The refrigerator we shared with a roommate was packed to the gils with leafy greens and purple beans. But I’ve learned that sometimes you have to pick around the moldy cherries and keep the good ones. Don’t worry, Mom, I’m not saying that I’m a freegan eating out of dented cans (sorry, freegans! I know that’s a harsh stereotype that isn’t true at all). I just know how to produce less garbage.

Some people don’t like that you  have to take home beets and radishes even if you don’t eat beets and radishes. But I’ve learned to eat weird vegetables that I’ve never heard of before. That’s valuable, too! I pride myself in the variety of foods that I now crave when I grew up eating hot dogs, peanut butter sandwiches, and Twizzlers. And, when all else fails, I’m more than happy to share with my family and friends. Besides, it gets them talking about the whole thing!

And, lastly, some people just don’t want to cook. This is something that I care about deeply because just a few years ago the only thing I knew how to cook were Totinos pizza rolls. I ate gummy bears for dinner with cups of coffee made light with artificially flavored creamers (and I didn’t even know how to make coffee until I was 20). I was broke and I was lucky enough to have roommates that knew how to take care of me and gigs that at least provided a disappointing pizza lunch. I hardly slept during college so I was lucky enough to not gain weight but I’m surprised I’m still alive. I wanted to eat food that was good for me but I didn’t know how to make any of it taste good nor did I take the time to do so. Fast forward a few years and I won’t say I’m Julia Child but I know how to put together a meal. I’ve taken a couple of classes to learn very basic things (knife skills, how to butcher a chicken, and how to mix cocktails because that’s important, too) and knowing those things has given me confidence. (It also doesn’t hurt to have a food documentarian boyfriend who is obsessed with molecular gastronomy but I think that I have more staple dinner recipes than he does.) That’s something that delights me. Just like making a sweater, I can make something that is good to eat.

And I feel about cooking much the way that I do about knitting: it can secretly be super simple. You don’t have to know cables or colorwork to put together a sweater that is warm and fashionable. People are still impressed that you made something that is, at it’s heart, just knit and purl stitches. It’s the same with cooking. It might look impressive because it’s wrapped in a parchment bag or roasted with herbs but the simplest techniques make delicious meals. I don’t need a fancy Michelin-starred plate. It isn’t always beautiful or complex (any vegetable roasted with olive oil is so delicious it feels like cheating) but it’s a home cooked meal.

So I say more of us should give this a try. It takes some getting used to but the amount of awesome you’ll feel when you’re sitting down to a meal you made yourself with produce that’s sustainable and organic, that didn’t break the bank, will make the craziness of offloading three pounds of peaches into a pie totally worth it.

To find a CSA near you, check out Just Food!

Have you participated in a CSA? Did you love it?

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27
Jun

My First CSA Pick Up

Written by Sarah. Posted in cooking, life, new york city

Good morning, everyone! Did we all have a lovely weekend? I am beating the Monday blues with a nice big cup of coffee and some great new yogurt!

The yogurt came from our first pick up for the CSA Jon and I joined. If you don’t know what a CSA is, well, I didn’t either! A co-worker introduced me to the concept when I started my job in February and it sounded like an amazing idea. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Members buy shares from a nearby farm and each week get the fruits, veggies, and other delicious organic produce that were harvested. Ours is 22 weeks and on top of the produce, we opted for yogurt, granola, herbs, and tempeh! Some CSAs offer other goodies like bread, butter, and farm-fresh eggs! I’m really excited and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Week 1: Our bag full of veggies and yogurt!

I plan on writing a series of posts about my experience with the Washington Square CSA which is partnered with Norwich Meadows Farm and other local vendors. Here are some of the topics I’ll be talking about:

1. Affordability
2. Sustainability
3. Curiosity
4. Recipes!

We kicked off CSA season with the biggest salad I’ve ever eaten!

We got lettuce, garlic scapes, and spring onions (among other things) from our share this week and tossed them in a salad with grilled chicken, Granny Smith apples, and cashews. I’ve never had a salad so fresh! And to think we were enjoying farm-quality food in our little two-bedroom walk-up amidst the bustle of urban life!

I can’t wait to see what we get next week! Yes, it’s always a surprise which is something that I love. It all depends on what is ready at the farm. We’ve already discovered some vegetables that we had never heard of before!

Have you tried out a CSA? What did you think?

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